Gestapo: what is it, creation, acting, end

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The Gestapo went to Nazi Germany secret police, being responsible for carrying out the persecution and silencing of all groups that could represent any kind of threat to the control of the Nazis. The term "Gestapo" derives from Geheim Staatspolizei, an expression in German that means “secret police of the State”.

The Gestapo went therefirst conceived by Hermann Göring, one of the great names of the Nazi Party in the 1930s. This secret police acted directly in the persecution of groups like the communists, social democrats and, later, the Jews. Based in the city of Berlin, the organization used espionage groups, which spread throughout Germany.

readalso: Night of Crystals: the beginning of the mass imprisonment of Jews in concentration camps

Creation of the Gestapo

The Gestapo was gestated in the rise period of Nazis to power in Germany, therefore in 1933. First, it is important to mention that the Nazi secret police was the continuation of a practice already carried out by many European nations since the 19th century: the use of political police.

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Heinrich Himmler and Reinhard Heydrich were very important in the process of federalization of the Gestapo and its unification with other police forces.[1]
Heinrich Himmler and Reinhard Heydrich were very important in the process of federalization of the Gestapo and its unification with other police forces.[1]

In the German context, Prussia had a very well-structured secret police, and its use continued even into the period of social democracy, which existed between 1919 and 1933. In this period of the Weimar Republic, the German secret police were used to repress communists and Nazis, but this changed from 1932.

This year, Franz von Papen he was appointed chancellor of Germany, and one of the changes he made allowed the Nazis to gain strength. The head of this Prussian secret police became HermannGoring, one of the most prominent cadres of the Nazi Party. From this appointment made by von Papen, the secret police began to be used ostensibly to repress only the Communists.

Besides secret police chief, Göring also took over the interior Ministery and, with that, he was able to approach RudolfDiels, the commander of the Prussian secret police. It was from this relationship between Göring and Diels that the Gestapo was born, but historian Frank McDonough says that it is not known which of the two had the idea of ​​creating it|1|.

Still, we know that Göring called himself the founder of the Gestapo, as, in his own words, he he claimed to have personally worked on the reorganization and creation of the corporation, attributing it only to his own effort|2|. Frank McDonough, however, says that in addition to Goring and Diels, the creation of the Gestapo also had the contribution of HeinrichHimmler and ReinhardHeydrich, the two architects of the holocaust|3|.

Göring's appointment to head the Prussian secret police was the first step in creating the Gestapo. the appointment of hitler as prime minister of Germany in January 1933 was the second step, and the third was the Reichstag fire, the German Parliament, on February 27, 1933.

On that occasion, a Dutch communist named marinus van der lubbe burned down the German parliament as a protest against the Nazis. His act was solitary and had no connection with the Communist Party of Holland or Germany. In any case, this action served as justification for the Nazis to close the grip on German democracy.

The next day, the German government announced the Reichstag Fire Decree, which established an overtly authoritarian mechanism known as Schutzhaft. This mechanism determined that anyone understood as "enemy of the people” could be pre-emptively arrested, even if there was no charge against her.

The fire of the German Reichstag was one of the most decisive factors in the creation of the Gestapo in April 1933.
The fire of the German Reichstag was one of the most decisive factors in the creation of the Gestapo in April 1933.

This decree even ended a series of constitutional guarantees that existed in Germany, and the Schutzhaft was widely used by the Gestapo. THE official creation of secret police of the Nazis happened in April 26, 1933, through the Gestapo Law, enacted by Hermann Göring. At that moment, the Gestapo — GeheimStaatspolizei in the German or Portuguese state secret police — was under the direction of Göring, and Rudolf Diels was in charge of administrative affairs, known as the Gestapa.

At that first moment, the Gestapo was authorized to act only in Prussia. This was because it was traditional in Germany that each province had its own police. However, the creation of this organization was one of the steps in the transformation of the Nazi police into an institution to operate throughout German territory.

Accessalso: Laws that took away citizenship from Jews in Nazi Germany

Gestapo Action

Over time, the Gestapo grew and came under the influence of the Schutzstaffel (SS), a paramilitary force responsible for the protection of Adolf Hitler. This happened with the process of federalization of police in Germany and was the result of the union of the Gestapo with the SS to contain the action of the Sturmabteilung (SA), assault troops.

From 1934, command of the Gestapo passed into the hands of Heinrich Himmler, and Rinhard Heydrich took over from Diels in administrative matters. Through Himmler, SA opposition was neutralized and the federalization of the Gestapo was completed through a law of June 17, 1936.

From that law, it was decided that the Gestapo was included in the definition of “policeinsafety” and whose attribute was to fight political enemies, regardless of who they were. The Gestapo acted in collaboration with the Kriminalpolizei, known as krypo, police responsible for elements that could promote the “moral and physical degeneration” of the German people|4|.

From 1939 onwards, the Gestapo was officially unified with other German police forces: the orpus (Ordnungspolizei), police order; The krypo it's the SD (Sicherheitsdienst), the intelligence agency. From then on, they were under the command of Reich Security Main Office (RSHA, its acronym in German), and the power of this office extended throughout Germany.

Gestapo officials working on registration of concentration camp prisoners.[1]
Gestapo employees working on registration of concentration camp prisoners.[1]

The growth of the Gestapo in this process of formation and restructuring, between 1933 and 1939, was considerable and, already in 1939, the number of employees of the secret police was of 15 thousand people, reaching 32 thousand people in 1944 |5|. It formed section IV of the RSHA and had sixdepartments with different approaches to action. These departments were:

  • DepartmentTHE: monitored Marxists, communists, reactionaries and liberals;

  • DepartmentB: monitored Catholics, Protestants, Jews and Freemasons;

  • DepartmentÇ: processed preventive detention orders;

  • DepartmentD: monitored the territories occupied by the Nazis;

  • DepartmentAND: monitored espionage actions in Germany;

  • DepartmentF: foreign policing and border services.

In carrying out its functions, the Gestapo carried out surveillance missions, investigated the actions of organizations with suspicious activities, carried out preventive arrests within the principles of Schutzhaft, in addition to carrying out interrogations through the use of torture and executing prisoners.

During the Holocaust, the Gestapo was involved in Jewish monitoring actions, which, when they were found, were forwarded to concentration camps. In addition, members of the Gestapo were called upon to join the Einsatzgruppen, the Nazi death squads that carried out the execution of Jews in Eastern Europe.

The building that housed the Gestapo in Berlin was on the Prinz Albrechstrasse, 8. This address was very famous in the city as the Nazi secret police torture center. The Gestapo also acted against resistance groups, carrying out executions of citizens from places occupied by the Nazis.

Accessalso: Joseph Goebbels — one of the minds behind Nazism

End of Gestapo

The Gestapo ended when the Germans were defeated in World War II, in 1945. As the German situation worsened in the war, the number of Gestapo members dwindled. In the last weeks of the conflict, many employees began taking actions to destroy all documentation accumulated by the secret police over its 12 years of existence.

With the defeat, many Gestapo employees fled Germany. The last director, HeinrichMuller, for example, was never found after Germany was defeated. Presumably he died, and there is even evidence that the body was buried in a mass grave in Berlin. However, for a long time, it was believed that he could have fled to Czechia, the Soviet Union or South America.

Already HeinrichHimmler, one of the great minds behind the Gestapo, was captured by Allied troops trying to flee Germany. While in prison, he ingested a cyanide capsule and died. Another big name in the Gestapo, HermannGoring, he was put on trial at Nuremberg and sentenced to death by hanging. He also committed suicide by ingesting a cyanide capsule.

the gestapo was considered acriminal organization by the Allies in 1945, and some of its former employees were persecuted and imprisoned in the post-war period. These arrests for former Gestapo employees lasted around 2 to 3 years, and citizens who filed complaints with the organization during its existence were also targeted by court after World War II.


|1| MCDONOUGH, Frank. Gestapo São Paulo: Leya, 2016, p. 24.

|2| Idem, p. 34.

|3| Idem, p. 26.

|4| Idem, p. 50.

|5| Idem, p. 52.

Image credits:

[1] Everett Historical and Shutterstock

By Daniel Neves Silva
History teacher

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